Time to tighten the taps on water retailers

Since the business water retail market was deregulated in April 2017 many water consumers are still struggling to receive accurate invoices.

Big Zero Report 2022

Jesse Fox, Operations Manager of Optima Energy Systems explained that “businesses consuming water at multiple sites spread across the country face many challenges when it comes to understanding and validating their invoices, leading to a distrust in the final cost of their bills. The lack of uniformity in the industries billing formats, charges and calculations means that businesses must have a detailed awareness of different locations’ tariffs. Gaining this knowledge and applying the relevant checks and subsequently chasing up billing issues with the suppliers can be very time consuming.”

He goes on to say that “The business water retail market has a long way to go in order to catch up to gas and electricity suppliers in terms of the consistency and quality of their electronic billing format and the lack of consistency or an agreed format or billing structure is leading to mistakes not being identified by consumers.”

For businesses that have taken advantage of the cost savings that deregulation has achieved through switching water suppliers and consolidating their bills, further frustrations are common especially within organisations with a complex site portfolio.

Jesse said “poor portfolio management from suppliers and outdated site data from old systems that had been applied by water retailers results in many incorrect charges, as well as instances of old suppliers continuing to invoice for a site they no longer supply, new suppliers failing to invoice for a site they are now supplying, both the old and new supplier invoicing the same site and also neither supplier sending invoices for a site.”

He explained that Optima developed a completely new bill validation system for water, waste water and trade effluent that accommodates all wholesale and retail tariffs from all the water suppliers across the country to accurately and quickly identify if a customer’s water invoice is okay to pay or not. It also highlights the state of the site portfolio by reporting on any missing bills or duplicates. Optima’s aim is to simplify the complexities within the industry. Based on the applicable tariffs, products, meters and volume of water consumed the system knows what the final bill should come to and, due its scalability, can apply this across tens of thousands of billed meters. Where the actual invoice doesn’t match up to Optima’s expectations the query is flagged for further investigation and resolution.

As the water market continues to mature it is key that large water consumers and those with complex property portfolios have full transparency of their water supply and trade effluent charges, in order to challenge discrepancies which will ultimately drive efficiencies within water companies and regulators to improve the accuracy and reliability of their invoices.

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